The Lodge is a cross between The Shining and Hereditary with religious undertones, but it’s not as good as it sounds; the film lacks mainstream appeal, but also fails to stand-out amongst the many great indie horror pictures of recent years. The Lodge flourishes in producing dread in its middle act, commanded by a chillingly tormented Riley Keough, but is spoiled by a lazy exposition and unnecessarily sadistic ending.
We are first introduced to a family begrudgingly transitioning through divorce – the mother eventually killing herself. The kids, Aidan and Mia, blame their incoming stepmother Grace for the tragic incident, and conduct research on her finding out she was the daughter of a cult leader who led a mass suicide – Grace being the only survivor. It would be an understatement to say the siblings never give up their resentment, even six months later when they’re forced to spend time with Grace at the family winter lodge.
Writer/Directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz leave little to the imagination, spoon-feeding the audience too much of the wrong information early on; when we should’ve been learning more about the family, we are learning about Grace and we haven’t even met her yet. The kids are absolutely detestable – led by Jaeden Martell, whom you may recognize from the It movies and Knives Out. And the doll house feels arbitrarily inserted – it’s as if the directors watched Hereditary and felt the need to use a doll house in their next film (supposedly The Lodge was being filmed at the same time as Hereditary, and the filmmakers were unaware of the dollhouse trope being used elsewhere, but I digress). It’s safe to say it wasn’t a strong start.
The film doesn’t pick up until Grace’s past begins to haunt her – she can only withstand so much disregard from her fiancé’s children before being pushed over the edge. It is from this point where the film begins to deliver on some of its pull quotes. The remote lodge, much like the Overlook hotel, becomes a character itself; doors swing open on their own, objects disappear without explanation, floors creak throughout the night, and fuzzy figures pop up in the background. Riley Keough convincingly descends into madness, fueled by the film’s religious imagery and the occasional organ that plays in her head. The cinematography is claustrophobic, and the score is whaling. The Lodge becomes a film that gets under your skin.
The film’s suddenly interesting direction is quickly unraveled by a twist reminiscent of the 2015 videogame, Until Dawn. If that spoils things for you, I apologize, but The Lodge is also a dumb film that is nearly all style and no substance – so I’m not too sorry. The ending is brutal, but also clunky. If you’re a fan of the directors’ hit film, Goodnight Mommy, then go ahead and take a chance with The Lodge, otherwise pass on it. 6/10